The Value of a Minor

Author: Justin Nortey '19

According to a 2016 Gallup report, 21% of millennials have changed jobs within the last year, three times the number of non-millennials. If millennials really are the “job hopping” generation, what impact could that have on your academic choices? Should students come to college feeling that they have to excel in one field in order to secure a career?

“The perspective of some employers has begun to shift from one that values intense focus in a certain area to one that values balance,” says Hugh Page, Dean of the First Year of Studies. “This allows students to ponder whether there is a way to focus primarily on one area, but also acquire substantial knowledge in another.”

At Notre Dame, there are three curricular configurations: Majors which are comprised of eight to ten three-credit classes, supplementary majors which require twenty-four credits, and minors which require fifteen credits. Minors are generally discipline/area specific, and are abbreviated versions of majors intended to give a sense as to how the field or discipline is configured. They allow students to sample a smaller group of courses in a particular area in which they may have an interest.

“Pursuing a minor in a different area from a major could be beneficial,” Page explains. “However, it has to make sense in terms of its fit with the things that represent your core specialty, as well as in terms of your vision for what you would like to see yourself doing either in the near or far distant future. For example, if you were an anthropology major and you decided that you really have an interest in one particular aspect of Africana studies and you chose to minor in it, that would make sense if you could see how declaring that minor would complement what you were doing with anthropology.”

“Another approach is to think broadly about using available courses in elective spaces. If you had a major in one area and you discovered that there was something you had taken in a major course that was being looked at further or from a different vantage point, pursuing a minor would make sense.”

Not every major has a minor; individual departments determine whether or not they will have a minor.

“Students should look very carefully at each one of the departments in which they are interested to see what is offered,” Dean Page advises. “Even if there is not a minor in a given area, students should not hesitate to take a sampling of courses in a given area which would give them a sense for what a field has to offer.”

What minor would Dean Page be interested in now?

“I’ve often said that one area that really fascinates me is particle physics. The reason is that when you look at small particle physics some authors have said that the view of reality encountered is not unlike that described in many of the world’s mystical traditions. So I think it would be really interesting as a theologian and a philologist to have a chance to think about how the universe is construed in a field within a different disciplinary spectrum.”

(The Rev.) Hugh Page, Jr., professor of theology and Africana studies, was appointed vice president and associate provost for undergraduate affairs in 2013; he is also the Dean of the First Year of Studies (FYS).